Protecting LGBTQ Foster Kids by Protecting the Rights of LGBTQ Foster Parents

June 7, 2021

David S. Byers, an assistant professor in Bryn Mawr's Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, has co-authored a New York Times opinion piece with Stephen Vider of Cornell University about a soon-to-be-decided Supreme Court case about whether the city of Philadelphia can bar Catholic Social Services from screening future foster parents due to the organization's policy of excluding lesbian and gay couples as foster parents.

From the article:

"If the court’s conservative majority rules in favor of Catholic Social Services, the most obvious losers would be prospective lesbian and gay foster parents. Yet those with the biggest stake are L.G.B.T.Q. children and adolescents. A ruling for the agency would not only threaten hard-won advances to recognize and support L.G.B.T.Q. youth, but would embolden foster care agencies across the country to acquiesce in and perpetuate discrimination against L.G.B.T.Q. people."

"On any given day, there are over 400,000 children and adolescents in foster care in the United States. Trauma is built into the system. Children are typically removed from their families of origin because of reports of abuse or neglect, or because a guardian has died or been incarcerated. While there is no recent federal data on L.G.B.T.Q. young people in the foster care system, various studies, including one published in 2019 in the journal Pediatrics, show that L.G.B.T.Q. young people are overrepresented, with rates ranging from 24 to 34 percent."

"For these L.G.B.T.Q. youth, the trauma is often different. Many are pushed out of their family homes because of homophobia and transphobia; once in foster care, they are often more vulnerable to harassment and abuse. L.G.B.T.Q.-affirming foster parents offer the best chance of providing a supportive home for those children and adolescents if they can’t remain with their families. This case directly threatens them."

Byers' research focuses on community and clinical ethics, especially related to care and allyship in settings of stigma, precarity, and political and intersectional oppression. He has more than a decade of direct practice experience as a clinical social worker and supervisor, with particular expertise in psychodynamic and developmental theory and psychotherapy; gender and sexuality, especially LGBTQ+ issues; trauma, bystanders, and allyship in peer groups; and bullying and cyberbullying in adolescence and emerging adulthood.

Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research